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Mat Collishaw's Magic Lantern

November 29, 2010 by Kay

26 November 2010 - 27 March 2011

V&A Cupola (from dusk) and John Madejski Garden (10.00 - 17.45)

The V&A has commissioned artist Mat Collishaw to animate the Museum's architecture with a work of haunting beauty. A monumental zoetrope - the cylindrical device first designed in 1834 to project a rapid succession of images to simulate motion - is the result. Magic Lantern transforms the Museum's edifice into a beacon of light, brought to life by fluttering moths visible from dusk each evening. Exploiting the theme of enchantment to the full, Collishaw plays with scale, much like Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by grabbing the attention of South Kensington passers-by with his monumental fluttering moths in the Museum's uppermost dome, the crown cupola.

'Midnight Icarus', Mat Collishaw, 2010. © Mat Collishaw

This commission is accompanied by a smaller replica zoetrope which will animate the John Madejski Garden during the day, allowing a close-up view of the enchanting motion of moths in flight. Artist Mat Collishaw (b. 1966) is perhaps best-known for his inclusion in seminal YBA (Young British Artist) exhibitions including 'Freeze' (1988) and 'Sensation' (1997), having since built an impressive body of work spanning photography, film and installation using combinations of technologies new and old. His subject matter juxtaposes traditional notions of beauty and innocence with disquiet and the uncanny. The moth is an apt reference: its beauty and delicacy belying suggestions of things Gothic and haunting.

'Magic Lantern', Mat Collishaw, 2010. © Mat Collishaw

The related film shown in the V&A's main entrance will document the process of producing and installing the Magic Lantern in one of the Museum's highest and most inaccessible places. Magic Lantern can be seen from Cromwell and Exhibition Roads and as one approaches the V&A from South Kensington tube, in addition to the Madejski Garden within the Museum. Contemporary Programmes has established a legacy of publicly and critically acclaimed new media commissions including Volume (2006), Forever (2008) and Mirror, Mirror (2009). This ambitious project, however, propels Contemporary's interventions in a new direction, using remarkable heights of the Museum for site-specific work. Supported by the Friends of the V&A